SEC East Division Notebook: Midseason Awards
Halfway through the 2015 college football season, and we’ve already seen plenty of compelling news come from the SEC East Division.
The resignation of South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier caught everyone off-guard. Florida and Georgia have also been beset by a major suspension and injury, respectively.
Without further ado, let’s review the best and worst of the SEC East Division play thus far.
Midseason MVP: Will Grier, Florida, QB, RS. Fr.
It might be strange to see a suspended player as the division’s midseason MVP, but Grier’s play is a big reason as to why No. 13 Florida is in playoff contention.
The North Carolina native completed passes at a 65.8-percent clip. He also threw for 1,204 yards and 10 touchdowns to three interceptions. Grier led Florida to a stunning come-from-behind victory over Tennessee, as well as a resounding win over then-third-ranked Ole Miss.
Grier brought consistency to the position. Prior to his suspension, he was clearly the top quarterback in the SEC East. Although he’s played in fewer games than his fellow peers at the position, Grier still leads the division in touchdown throws.
Best Freshman: Antonio Callaway, Florida, WR, Fr.
The freshman pass-catcher out of Miami has been an incredibly dynamic player for head coach Jim McElwain. Callaway is second on the team in receiving yards (308) and touchdown receptions (2), is fourth in receptions (16) and has a 19.3 yards-per-catch average.
He’s truly given an added dimension in terms of stretching the field vertically. Callaway’s 63-yard catch-and-run for the winning score versus Tennessee was fantastic. It was a clutch play by the youngster, who hauled in the pass on a fourth-and-14 attempt with 1:26 remaining in the contest. On special teams, Callaway’s proven to already be a serious threat. He scored on a 72-yard return versus LSU this past weekend. As he continues to develop, it appears as if Florida has a very special player in the making.
Biggest Disappointment (team): Tennessee 3-3 (1-2)
Butch Jones’ team appeared primed to vault itself into the upper echelon of the division. Recruiting has been going exceptionally well, and Josh Dobbs had the look of potentially becoming one of the best quarterbacks in the conference.
After six games, Tennessee sits at 3-3.
The Volunteers’ three losses all came by seven points or less. They suffered a complete collapse against both Florida and Oklahoma, and suffered a bad loss at home to underachieving Arkansas.
Biggest Surprise (team): Florida 6-1 (4-0)
With a new coaching staff in place, it was expected to be a year of transition for the Gators.
Jim McElwain obviously had other ideas.
Sitting at 6-1, the No. 13 Gators have a real chance at winning the East. The team has been buoyed by a staunch defense, and effective offensive skill play. Although Florida is relying upon a litany of young players, the baby Gators have been impressive. For the first time in quite a while, there’s tangible excitement surrounding the program.
Biggest Surprise (player): Charles Harris, Missouri, DE, RS So.
Missouri’s starting defensive end has been a revelation for Gary Pinkel.
At the start of the year, there was a general lack of experience and production up front. It was an unproven group, to say the least. However, the combination of Harris and Walter Brady has been arguably the best one-two punch at the position in the SEC.
Harris leads the conference with 12.5 tackles for loss. He’s also accrued five sacks, and has been a terror off the edge.
Biggest Disappointment (player): Josh Dobbs, Tennessee, QB, Jr.
Prior to the season starting, Dobbs was projected by many as a breakout-star within the conference. Possessing a good arm, considerable mobility, and exceptional mental acuity, he has all the tools in becoming a quality signal-caller.
It isn’t surprising Tennessee’s 3-3 start correlates with his struggles at the position. On the year, Dobbs is putting up decent numbers. He’s thrown for 1,101 yards and eight touchdowns. However, he hasn’t been a difference-maker with the football in his hands.
From a statistical standpoint, he also ranks towards the bottom of the conference in quarterback rating (126.0).
Biggest Loss: Georgia RB Nick Chubb
Potentially the best running back not named Leonard Fournette, Chubb acted as the fulcrum of Georgia’s offense. Whenever he had success running the football, the Bulldogs more often than not won.
There also might not be another player more valuable to their respective team than Chubb is to Georgia. It makes his season-ending knee injury that much more devastating. Without Chubb, Georgia’s chances at winning the SEC East take a severe hit.
Biggest Win: Florida over Ole Miss
The Gators welcomed the then-No. 3 Rebels to "The Swamp" for a massive intra-division contest.
Not only did Florida win, but it dominated throughout. The 38-10 thumping of Hugh Freeze’s team was a signature win for McElwain.
Not only did Florida prove it can thrive against top-level competition, but it also demonstrated that the Gators are back from a relevance standpoint in the national scope of things.
Biggest conference game coming up: Florida vs. Georgia, Oct. 31
Annually billed as "The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party," this game has massive implications.
As currently constituted, Florida and Georgia sit atop the division standings. While Florida has a one-game advantage in the loss column, a Georgia win in this contest would be immense.
Player to watch out for in second half: Florida QB Treon Harris
The reserve signal-caller is now thrust into a starting position with the suspension of Grier.
Harris has the ability to make plays with both his legs and arm. The quarterback has a golden opportunity to lead the Gators to not only a division crown, but perhaps a playoff spot as well.
Most viral moment: South Carolina’s reaction to Spurrier’s resignation
Interim head coach Shawn Elliott is ready to lead the Gamecocks. They look HYPE. https://t.co/aavzBcyGQN
— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) October 17, 2015
Interim head coach Shawn Elliott displayed tremendous emotion when leading the Gamecocks onto the field in the first game sans-Spurrier.
Paying tribute by holding a white visor, Elliott got his team into a complete frenzy in the stadium tunnel. South Carolina went on to beat Vanderbilt by a score of 19-10.
Best play of the year: South Carolina RB Shon Carson’s TD vs. Missouri
In one of the most inexplicable plays in the 2015 season, South Carolina RB Shon Carson caught a touchdown pass on a crazy deflection by the Missouri defense. It was something one would see in sandlot football. As they say, it’s better to be lucky than good.
Worst play of the year: Tennessee’s defensive effort vs. Florida
— The Bottom Line (@thebottomlineBR) September 27, 2015
The Volunteers are simply cursed when it comes to playing the rival Gators.
Tennessee was 1:26 away from breaking a 10-game losing streak to Florida. All it had to do was stop the Gators was converting on a fourth-and-14 attempt. Not only did Florida convert, but it scored on a spectacular 63-yard touchdown by a freshman receiver.
Who makes the Final Four:
1. Ohio State
The team in the national picture most likely to get skewered: Iowa
Kirk Ferentz’s team could finish the year undefeated, with a shot at Ohio State (or Michigan State) in the conference title game. Should Iowa lose that game, its one-loss resume might not be strong enough to get it into the four-team playoff. This is in large part to a weak nonconference schedule.